Prince's Italian Plagiarism Case Drags On
The beleaguered estate of Prince could face further problems, this time from Italy. As previously reported, an Italian court ruled that Prince’s 1994 hit, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was plagiarized from a 1983 song by two Italian writers, Bruno Bergonzi and Michele Vicino.
That sentence has since been confirmed by Italy’s notoriously slow-moving judiciary and, now that Prince is no longer with us, the composers are keen for the matter to be resolved.
Bruno Bergonzi tells Billboard that the song that he co-wrote with Michele Vicino was called “Takin’ Me to Paradise” and was published by Warner Chappell Italy. Bergonzi says: “The recording artist was ‘Raynard. J, which was the pseudonym of Jay Rolandi, a session vocalist who also sang with the Italian disco group Firefly. The song wasn’t a big hit, but it did appear on a number of compilations that were distributed internationally. It continues to re-appear in DJ remixes.”
Bergonzi and Vicino first took Prince to court in 1995. Italian court rulings have three rounds of verdicts and cases often drag on for more than 20 years. The first ruling, made by the Rome court in 2003, actually went against Bergonzi and Vicino, but they won on appeal in 2007. The third and final sentence was handed down by the “court of cassation” in May 2015 (when Prince was still alive).
Under the latest ruling, Prince's estate is barred from distributing “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” in Italy. The sentence must be published, at Prince’s expense, in two Italian national dailies and two specialist music magazines. Bergonzi says that, “This has yet to happen.” Bergonzi and Vicino’s publishers, Warner Chappell Italy, are also required to notify Prince, although this Bergonzi says that “as far as we know, this has likewise yet to happen.” He adds: “The American legal authorities did, we believe, make various attempts to deliver the verdict to Prince’s Paisley Park residence but couldn’t find anyone home!”
One aspect of the sentence that has been respected is that Italian collecting society SIAE now recognizes Bergonzi and Vicino as the authors of “The Most Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and Bergonzi says that “we have begun to receive some royalty payments.” He adds: “The court has also ruled that we should receive compensation for ‘moral rights,’ although under the Italian legal system that doesn’t amount to a large amount of money.”
Spokespeople for Warner Chappell Publishing Italy could not be reached for comment.